Last week I visited a team planning a new high school, a team planning to reinvigorate a high school, and operators of a couple high performing networks. They were all positive about the emerging opportunities of blended learning but all had similar questions about models, platforms, and content.
Following are 10 tips for launching a blended high school or phasing blended strategies into an existing school.
1. Start with goals. What will grads know and be able to do? Good schools start with good goals. I like the goal statements from , a small district south of Lexington:
- POWERFUL LEARNING EXPERIENCES: Every Danville student will consistently experience classroom work and activities that are meaningful, engaging, and relevant, connecting to students’ interests and/or previous knowledge.
- GLOBAL PREPAREDNESS: Every Danville student will be immersed each day in learning opportunities intentionally designed to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and data analysis, enabling them to compete globally.
- GROWTH FOR ALL: Every Danville student, regardless of starting point, will achieve at least one year of academic progress in reading and mathematics each school year.
- EXCELLENCE IN COMMUNICATION: Every Danville student will be provided regular and multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning through verbal and written communications, visual and performing arts, and the use of multiple forms of technology.
- AN INFORMED & INVOLVED COMMUNITY: The Danville Schools will establish effective two-way communication, in various forms, with all stakeholders in the community. (See Getting Smart .)
2. Create a shared vision of powerful learning experiences. Common Core State Standards are a great opportunity to have a conversation about the kinds of learning experiences young people deserve. For an outline of 15 student learning roles see
Real college and career readiness requires writing across the curriculum–maybe 500 words a day–and publishing (not just turning in work) on a regular basis to blogs and newspapers.
Students should have a chance to self blend with access to every AP course, a wide variety of foreign languages, and exposure to careers of interest.
3. Sweat the culture. The kids set the tone in high school unless there is a strong intentional culture.
starts the day with Crew, a 30 minute advisory period where they practice and talk about the shared Habits of Heart and Mind central to the Launch culture: accountability, craftsmanship, wonder, mindfulness, and compassion. The Habits are integrated into the culture and every learning experience at Launch. (See Getting Smart .)
In Mooresville, North Carolina and,
4. Measure what matters. Build a dynamic assessment and competency-tracking capacity using . Make end of course exams available on demand.
When developing goals and metrics, don’t forget character development and social emotional learning. Developing habits of success and an entrepreneurial mindset is .
The college and career readiness system will track growth trajectory of knowledge, skills, and success habits against college goals ( I don’t know of anyone else thinking about goal-focused tracking on these dimensions). Students falling short of their planned growth trajectory, on any front, will see a big red warning system. (See Getting Smart .)
5. Adopt, adapt, or develop a school model that will create powerful learning experiences, leverage your strengths and help you reach your goals. Districts/networks with relatively high performance should consider phasing in a model starting with a subject with strong leadership–perhaps an area where teachers are using flipped classroom strategies.
Read up on high school rotation blends including and the (and this three part series: , If a large percentage of students are below grade level, consider blended systems like and .
Schools serving over-aged and under-credited students or those connected to technical training, like should use a to optimize personalization, schedule and location flexibility, and pathway options. In most cases, it’s best to run a flex model on a comprehensive learning platform.
See is a new flex model charter school. For a district version, check out .
6. Ask students to wrestle with big problems. Big blocks offer the opportunity for personalization within heterogeneous groupings. is great content for a science/humanities block.
At , three capstone options are offered in triple blocks potentially incorporating core courses such as ethics and technical writing, technical writing, an AP credit and/or college credit bearing courses like political science and microeconomics, an internship, and a undergraduate-style research projects handful of projects. Imagine high school seniors (instead of coasting) taking a super block focused on energy, environment, and the economy.
can be particularly challenging at the high school level given transcripts and graduation requirements. Some schools will reduce the Common Core to a checklist of micro-standards. Track competencies but don’t miss the opportunity to ask big questions and provoke deeper learning.
7. Pick a platform and content. It’s easiest to run flex model schools using a comprehensive platform (content plus LMS) like Egenuity, GradPoint, and Flipswitch.
The in LA developed , a three station rotation model including online learning, small group instruction, and collaborative learning, in partnership with .
Students at ten Houston High Schools will receive a laptop for the next school year (see ) and they’ll be using the free social learning platform that makes it easy to build and share content libraries.
The most innovative platform I’ve seen this year is . The EAA built it on Brainhoney from and populated the innovative competency-based model with .
Check out the growing universe of Open Educational Resources from , , , and ( ).
8. Blend your staffing plan. Check out the extended reach strategies at . Phase in differentiated staffing(different levels) and distributed staffing (a few remote teachers). A recent blog outlined
Summit Public Schools has a thoughtful competency-based four steps that utilizes multiple forms of evidence.
9. Pick the right device. As discussed in the , don’t even think about buying student devices until you’ve set goals, debated student learning experiences, and developed a school model that leverage great teaching with technology.
LAUSD decided on iPads last week–a popular choice these days but it’s not a great production device for high school students. . . A growing number of .
10. Engage, improve, & iterate. We’re in the early innings of the shift to personal digital learning. New tools and new schools are being developed every month. The best leaders can do is to lead a conversation that exposes the school community to opportunity and yields temporary agreements that enables schools to iterate up from a sound design.
Disclosures: Edmodo and MasteryConnect are Learn Capital Portfolio companies where Tom is a partner. CompassLearning is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.